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Full text of "The History Of Western Education"

90         HISTORY OF WESTERN EDUCATION

If the Christians of the Fourth Century had followed out the
counsels of scholarly ascetics like Jerome to their logical conclusion,
they would have neglected the old learning altogether ; and, as a
matter of fact, a small but important section of the Church regarded
that as the only possible course to take.   A most striking instance
is that of Paulinus, the greatest Acquitanian nobleman of his time
and a man of outstanding literary ability.   Under the influence of
a mystical Christianity he abandoned wealth and rank to devote
himself to the life of a recluse, and remained deaf to all the appeals
that were made to bring about his return to cultured society.
Writing to his old teacher Ausonius to announce that he was dead
to the world, he said:  " Why bid the Muses whom I have dis-
owned return to claim my devotion ?   Hearts vowed to Christ
have no welcome for the goddesses of song; they are barred to
Apollo.   Time was when, not with equal force but with equal
ardour, I could join with thee in summoning the deaf Phoebus
from his cave at Delphi.   Now another force, a mightier God,
subdues my soul.    He forbids me give up my time to the
vanities of leisure or business, and the literature of fable, that
I may obey his laws and see his light, which is darkened by
the cunning skill of the sophist, and the figments of the poet
who fills the soul with vanity and falsehood and only trains the
tongue."*

This was the spirit of the monasticism which was extending
through Western Europe at this time, and it must be kept in mind
for the understanding of the part played by the monasteries in
education somewhat later. But it certainly was not the spirit of
the Church as a whole. Even in the West, where there was least
sympathy with literature and philosophy, there was a general
disposition to come to terms with the pagan learning and find a
via media between acceptance and rejection. It was recognized
that while some of the features of the classical culture were incom-
patible with Christianity, there was much that could be borrowed
from it for the advancement of the faith; and this borrowing was
justified on the scriptural precedent as a " spoiling of the Egyp-
tians." It is this idea that underlies Augustine's discussion in the
two treatises De Ordine and De Doctrina Christiana, which express
most clearly the early Christian point of view in education* In
the latter, which it must be remembered had reference only to the
* S. Dill, Roman Society in the Last Century of the Western Empire, p, 333.